Liverpool are ready to ‘attack’ the Carabao Cup as their campaign gets under way at MK Dons on Wednesday night, assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders has asserted.

The Reds travel to Stadium MK for the third-round tie as they begin their journey in the competition.

They will be without the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Sadio Mane, Alisson Becker and Divock Origi for the fixture due to injury, while Rhian Brewster and Caoimhin Kelleher could make their first senior appearances for the club.

Nevertheless, Lijnders insists Liverpool will field a team determined to progress into the next phase of the cup and build upon their impressive start to 2019-20.

The coach faced the media at Melwood on Tuesday afternoon to preview the game – read on for a summary of his pre-match press conference…

On Jürgen Klopp, Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk being recognised at the FIFA awards on Monday night…

[It’s] a big compliment for our structure, I think, for our owners to have faith in Jürgen from the start, giving him a long-term deal. That helps to trust and to build. It is a big compliment for our team because without success the individual prizes would never come. Then of course, [it is] a big compliment for Jürgen himself. I am really proud, to be honest – that’s what I said [to him] yesterday. It says a lot, it marks a long way with the project he put in place here; the way we are building the team, the way the team can compete in each competition and the way they have established themselves, getting stronger on the training pitch with the right signings. He is not only the face of the team, he is the face of the club. Not many foreign managers in a different country could make the impact he made at Liverpool FC. It is not only about now, but it could be about the future. He created a real identity of our play, the way we want to play and the way he plays. That could last for a long time.

On whether Liverpool have improved even further this season…

I think we always want to build on the best games we had, what characterises our best games. For me, we are much further than we were last year at the same time. We can dictate play much better, our last line feels much more comfortable being higher, we are much more front-footed defensively and, of course, we can control games and spaces better. The team absorbed the way we want to play, it became a natural skill of them. Of course, we had a short pre-season so we have to keep building this season and finding our machine again, but yes, for sure, we are in the right way. It is not easy because many teams change their set-up. For example, we analysed Chelsea, 5-4-1, and they came with 4-3-3, so many teams change their set-up and play a more counter-attacking against us. There is less space, so we had to become better with the ball. We are much further now than we were last year.

On Liverpool’s aims for the Carabao Cup…

We want to compete in each competition, we want to attack each competition. We worked so hard to be in this situation where we can compete in each one. For me, cup competitions are the soul of football because it represents a chance for smaller clubs to play against Premier League clubs and can give historic games for fans. That’s what we’re up against tomorrow. The cup competitions are something special; when two local teams play against each other, that environment you get with the cup competitions. We want to attack this cup, we want to attack tomorrow’s game, we will put a team in place that, for me, is a Premier League team. The players feel this responsibility as well: a highly-motivated team plays against us and the players feel this responsibility, so they really look forward to it, I really look forward to it. It’s another opportunity to put our identity in place and show our passion. We prepare for the game in the same way we prepared for Chelsea, with the same access, probably even more detail, but with the same hunger to win it.

On whether winning the Champions League can help with bringing more success to Anfield…

Wherever you are, it is about two things: one is development, two is winning – and both influence the other. We focused without a trophy at first on development, development, development, but winning creates more confidence in this way and confidence in the other way. Everything in the first place is about hope, but hope has to become conviction. We have conviction because it already happened that we can do it [win trophies]. Each experience makes us stronger; losing it made us stronger, but this is mainly because of our manager. I have said sometimes, the five minutes after a game are more important than the five days leading up to a game – and he can change situations like nobody else and give perceptions like nobody else.

On the improvements the team has made and working with Klopp... 

Improvements first then, I think our team became better in really dictating the play, in speeding up the positional play, finding the right players between the lines and from there being really creative. We made some adjustments in that by having our full-backs more involved in the attack, by having our midfielders more in control. Our last line made huge steps with the ball in terms of the speed how they play, how they step in with the ball, find direction, the variety from out of the back is good by finding the ball in behind or playing through the pitch without losing our identity of course. The better you attack, the easier it becomes to play good counter-pressing, which is, of course, our identity. The character of the team is mainly developed by the character of the coach without sessions. It's about the character of Jürgen. I play paddle with Jürgen a lot and he fight always and he finds always a way to come back in the game or it's my fault! But he always finds a way back and the character of our team is this: whatever comes in front of us, we will find solutions. It shows the individual quality of our players or the character of our individual players, how they constantly are becoming better. That's the good thing about how we play, it forces individual development and that’s, of course, mainly because of the direction Jürgen gives. He's the leader, the thinker of the team. 

On the cup potentially giving a chance for lots of the club's youngsters... 

I think so. Our club is about creating this culture; I think it’s really important to have an inside pathway to promote young players, to give them opportunities. But I don't believe in just giving opportunities, it has to be the right opportunity at the right time with the right players. Because young players need examples around them, they need models and they need being able to compete. If we need to put young players in a game with senior players around them, that's the perfect way to develop. First, they can see and are protected. So, say we play a left winger, a young one, and our left defender or left midfielder is a senior player, that triangle on that side, he gets protected of course. Like I said, young players they need models, they need players around them where they can learn from instead of criticism. That's what I really like about these moments in the season and that we can create a combination of this: one, the hunger to win and second, because it creates development, it makes our young players stronger. Again, it's not always about opportunities, it's the right moments, the right context, in the right collective with the right players around them.

On a chance to see players short of game time...

European champions! From the outside you see us, of course, as a squad, but from the inside we are a team. We don’t see subs or bench players, we see game-changers. You see players who have to change the game for us. If you want to compete in five competitions, everybody has to be ready and has to feel this responsibility to be ready. Say Joe Gomez against Chelsea, he only plays four or five minutes, but a game-changer because Alonso came through because Kovacic had the inside space. With Trent [stopping] and Joe closing the inside, it's a game-changer, so this is what I mean. But it's hard because you have to train each day for five minutes, but it wins us the game. If you want to play for Liverpool or play for a top team, you have to have this inside motivation and understand the importance that you will be needed in any moment. This is the good thing about our team is that we have these kind of players. It took a while, but we have them now.

They are [game-changers] – they should be and they should be prepared. Of course, it's not easy because from a human being point of view, you want to be involved constantly. But everyone knows and last season proved and showed that the season is so long with so many competitions. This year even more, we had the Super Cup, the Community Shield, we have the World Cup of teams and we consciously decided to have a small squad because we want to promote young players and we want to create this culture. If you create a big squad, it will not happen. If you create a squad with talent around, these talents will get opportunities and that's also really important to understand. We are creating a new generation, we're trying to create a new generation. 

On how Liverpool are treating the League Cup this season... 

Our first season we lost it in the final against City on penalties. It depends on the opposition and the moment we are in. I think we are much further as a team. If you rotate in games, say you change one player in the last line, one in the midfield and one upfront, you keep the collective. If you change a lot, it's much more difficult to keep that collective ideas. So, sometimes if you play against a Championship team who are all together against good players but they are not collective, it will cause us problems. I'm fully convinced that tomorrow’s team can compete.

On what to say to youngsters before a game...

The most important thing for us as coaches is to be very clear in what we want. Even with our first team, there is a lot of freedom. Say we want to prepare pressing situations and put real pressure in this way, but then in moments the players are, of course, free to decide to go, to stay. I think it's really important that the players feel this freedom, otherwise creativity doesn't exist or doesn't come. If you see our game, you see how Roberto turns and plays, you see there's a lot of freedom. We need this because we play against teams who are sitting, who make the spaces really small in between the lines. So we need this freedom as well for these players, especially the players you mention are all offensive-orientated players. Yes, the main principals don’t change, but inside that they should feel completely free. They have the trust from us and that’s most important. They train for so long with us as well. 

On Harvey Elliott...   

What a surprise he was when he came in the first session. Some players, they play as if they are already 28 or 29, he's this player who sees so much around him before things happen. It's not easy to step into our training because our training, if you want to play high-intensity football, you have train high-intensity football. It's not easy to come in and then have control and find combinations, etc. He showed this from the first second, so then you are a talented boy. I don't want to put more pressure on him, but we're really happy that he's with us.

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